At least 10 people killed, 24 others wounded in suicide bombing claimed by the Pakistani Taliban
A suicide blast at one of Pakistan’s oldest and most popular Sufi shrines killed at least 10 people and wounded 24 others in Lahore on Wednesday, police said, in an attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
The blast—which a faction of the militant group claimed by email—occurred near the entrance gate for female visitors to the 11th-century Data Darbar shrine, one of the largest Sufi shrines in South Asia, as the country marks the Islamic holy month of Ramzan.
Husks of vehicles littered the pavement near the shrine as first responders rushed to the scene while armed security forces fanned out in the area.
The shrine has long been home to colorful Sufi festivals and a prime destination for the country’s myriad Muslim sects, making it a soft target for militant attacks. It has been targeted previously, in a 2010 suicide attack, which killed more than 40 people. Since then the area has been increasingly hemmed in by heavy security, with visitors forced to pass through several layers of screening before they can enter the complex.
Sufi worshippers, who follow a mystical strain of Islam, have frequently been the target of bloody attacks in Pakistan by Islamist militants—including the Islamic State group—who consider Sufi beliefs and rituals at the graves of Muslim saints as heresy.
Senior police official Muhammad Ashfaq told a press conference that the security personnel at the shrine were targeted. Three police officials, two security guards and five civilians including a child were among the dead, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said.
The Data Darbar complex contains the shrine of Saint Syed Ali bin Osman Al-Hajvery, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh. Originally from Afghanistan, he was one of the most popular Sufi preachers on the subcontinent. Tens of thousands of pilgrims visit the shrine each spring to mark his death anniversary, while it is also crowded weekly with worshippers listening to qawwali, a traditional form of Islamic devotional music.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned the bombing and the loss of lives and offered condolences to the families of the victims. Punjab Chief Minister Buzdar has also condemned the attack and ordered police to submit a report on the incident.